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After several legislative hearings during the summer failed to find momentum in the sports betting debate, Missouri lawmakers are hoping to renew energy for a measure that could bring wagering to the state sometime next year.
As it stands, legislators are having trouble discerning if video gaming machines will be attached to the bill and if professional leagues will get a slice of the tax pie through integrity fees.
“What we’re trying to do is, number one, make sportsbook legal so you can bet on the Kansas City Chiefs or Kansas City Royals or St. Louis Cardinals,” Warrensburg State Senator Denny Hoskins told KRCG 13 last spring.
Since the Supreme Court legalized sports betting 18 months ago, states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania have quickly adopted wagering measures that have pumped tens of millions of dollars into their general funds. The rapid success of these states has left Missouri wondering what they are missing out on by not legalizing sports betting.
One of the biggest issues for Missouri lawmakers is the much-debated, much-dismissed integrity fee that all four professional leagues have demanded from states legalizing sports betting. As it stands, not one of the 19 states that have passed betting bills has included integrity fees despite heavy lobbying from MLB, the NFL, the NBA, and the NHL.
Missouri lawmakers have seemingly adopted the line passed along by lobbyists for the leagues that without integrity fees, the state’s betting could be exposed for fraud and other malfeasance. An opinion that other states have quickly pushed aside when working through their own legislation.
Despite decades of pushback from the leagues on sports betting, all four major sports are now signing deals with gaming operators and have generally welcomed the inclusion of wagering into their league’s future plans.
“My clients view this an opportunity,” said attorney Jeremy Kudon, who lobbies for Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the PGA, who told the Missouri House’s Special Interim Committee on gaming that the turnabout on gambling is “an opportunity to wipe the slate clean.”
The leagues also want to reserve the right to call the shots on other regulatory items in a sports betting bill including the ability to solely provide league data to bookmakers for a fee as well as dictate how much of the betting revenue they’ll be entitled to for bets on their games.
As the tide has turned and more states are refusing to play ball with the leagues’ integrity fee demands, the leagues have lowered their asking price. Major League Baseball is down to one-quarter of one percent of all bets made on their games. Not a minor ask considering that sports betting in Missouri could generate up to $5 billion annually in economic activity according to estimates.
When asked by the committee what the integrity fee will be used for, Kudon told the representatives,
“Think that a lot of the money will go toward promoting legal, safe sports betting in a state where we’re getting it. We want to bring it back to the state rather than bringing it to New York and using it internally.”
Until Missouri’s legislators get a firm grasp on how the bill should be arranged, there is little doubt that efforts to bring sports betting to the state will remain in limbo.
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